Directed by John Cameron Mitchell. Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller. 92 mins.
In cinemas February 4
Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) are living a pseudo existence. Becca is a joyless Stepford wife who spends her days tending to her garden, making her delinquent sister crème brûlée for breakfast and avoiding social gatherings, while Howie disappears all day to his unidentified job. Their interactions with eachother are stilted and perfunctory, and it’s not until other characters force their way into the couple’s lives that the source of their anguish is revealed – the tragic death of their four year old son, eight months previously.
Adapted by John Cameron Mitchell, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning play is a largely plot-free examination of grief, and so Rabbit Hole is completely dependent on its two leads. Thankfully, they are both incredible. Kidman’s impassive Becca is a blend of impassive steeliness that viciously attacks the platitude-spouting “God freaks” in her group therapy, and a well of brimming vulnerability in the face of Jason (Miles Teller), a teenager who has been traumatized in equal, if opposite, measure. Eckhart’s Howie, on the other hand, walks on eggshells to avoid confrontation with his wife even though he’s clearly a volcanic mess of understandable anger and guilt who, in the absence of non-existent answers, is just seeking release.
And so too, in a sense, are the audience. While the two main performances are heartwrenching in their restrained devastation, their characters feel lacking. Lindsay-Abaire’s screenplay doles out information so sparingly that by the end of the film, Becca and Howie remain unexplored and underdeveloped shells, and while their pain is felt, nothing is resolved.
However while for any other feature this would cause irrevocably damage, this sparseness is precisely why Rabbit Hole works – it gives the audience a rare and understated view into a couple who do feel empty, who don’t find a tidy resolution and who fall without ever landing. And though falling with them isn’t an enjoyable experience, it’s an unforgettable one.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/TLrzt71dfAI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]